In Jack Ma vs. the Chinese government, China wins

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Ant Financial was set to be the biggest IPO in history last year, before founder Jack Ma’s criticism of the Chinese government in October angered the administration and derailed the offering altogether.

Since then, Ma has been scrabbling together his olive branches in the hopes of getting back into regulators’ good graces.

And on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ant Financial is preparing for further nationalization, planning to turn itself “into a financial holding company overseen by China’s central bank.” The details have yet to be cemented. While it’s no surprise that the Chinese government would come out on top in all of this, there’s much irony in the situation.

In that fateful October speech, Ma spoke out against regulations that he believed were stifling innovation, comparing the incumbent banking system to pawnshops. Now, Ant Financial is facing greater regulation that could hit its bottom line.

What I can’t help but think about: What could this mean for other entrepreneurs in the internet space that have grown massively powerful in recent years?

CHAMATH PALIHAPITIYA FOR CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR? SPAC evangelist and early Facebook employee Chamath Palihapitiya wants to be the Warren Buffett of tech investing. He also appears to have thrown his name into the ring for Governor of California, tweeting Tuesday, “It’s on. #RecallGavinNewsom,” and linking to a website dubbed “Chamath for California Governor

On his campaign website (?), the investor called to reduce the state tax down the zero and end student loans. That question mark, by the way, is no editing error. In a subsequent tweet, Palihapitiya threw a dash of uncertainty to the idea, writing: “today was busy… I announced I’m running for governor of CA?” I’ve reached out to see what all of this means, but no clue yet.

Either way, a government job will undoubtedly create a cascade of conflict-of-interest issues and mountains of paperwork for the very active investor. 

Palihapitiya has also jumped into Gamestop, the stock currently at the center of a frenzied war between retail investors and hedge funds. My colleague, Bernhard Warner, has a great explanation on why the Reddit bettors—and their ability to cooperate via social media—aren’t going away anytime soon (teaser alert: hedge funds hold about 3% of U.S. equities while retail traders hold an estimated 36%).

CALENDLY: About two months ago, I reported that Calendly, an Atlanta, Ga.-based scheduling platform, had been in talks to raise at a roughly $3 billion valuation. On Tuesday, the company announced that it did actually make a deal. The company raised $350 million from OpenView Venture Partners with participation from Iconiq Capital. The deal is a mix of both cash to the company itself and to early shareholders and employees. What’s also notable: The deal makes for one of the single-digit U.S.-based unicorn startups with a Black founder at the helm. Read more.

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